barcelona, day five

There's been no shortage of things to do in Barcelona, we very easily filled 4-1/2 days, and we've skipped entire days of tourist destinations - Montjuic and Dali's Figuerres. This is a wonderful city, full of history, art, architecture, urban villages, great food, shopping - everything that makes a city great. Almost every sign is posted in three languages, and a huge percentage of people speak excellent English.

Today we went to La Boqueria, the main market. It is said that there has been a market on this site since the year 1210. The present one dates back to the late 19th century.

We love markets, and this one is huge and beautiful. The seafood stalls were especially amazing, offering an enormous variety of shellfish and fish. We must have seen a dozen different kinds of shrimp alone, along with giant, dark chunks of tuna, gleaming white salt cod, every manner of herring, sardine, and eel, calamari, snails, and on and on.

There were stalls selling 20 or 30 varieties of mushrooms, stalls with a dizzying array of dried fruit, cut-up fruit and batidas (fruit shakes), acres of ham. We were going to eat at one of the many food stalls, but ended up picking up tidbits as walked - empanadas, grilled shrimp piled on a wooden skewer, little dishes of calamari, spring rolls, figs.

The market runs off La Rambla, a long, crowded thoroughfare that used to be the city's main drag and is now a giant tourist trap. Time Out aptly says La Rambla exists only to separate tourists from their money, by any means possible, legal and illegal. It's extremely crowded and not very pleasant. We did negotiate it for a few blocks, to get to La Palau Guell, a mansion designed by Gaudi for the benefactors of Park Guell.

I went to this one by myself, and it's a good thing, as the 12 euro admission fee is overpriced. There are very few things to see inside. The main attraction is a roof terrace with a dozen or more chimneys covered in mosaics and topped with fanciful modernist fruit (See here.) I took a lot of pictures, and was glad I went, but it wasn't really worth 12 euros.

We then hopped back on the metro and got suitably lost trying to find the Palau Musica Catalana, the crazy modernist music hall, where we had an English-language tour booked for 3:00. We found the tour just before it started.

The construction of the Palau Musica Catalana was a point of great Catalan pride. It was paid for by public donations, featured all forms of music from classical to folk to popular, and has been (and still is) the home of the Catalan choral group, called an orfeo. It was the first choral group in Spain to admit women.

The hall is designed in a style that could be called modernisme on steriods - a dizzying array of mosaics and stained glass. But as the tour guide pointed out details, I saw a unity and a plan that I hadn't seen at first. The building was designed to let in a maximum amount of light in a very closed-in space, and features a giant, bell-shaped, stained-glass skylight. It was a good tour, worth doing if you want to see more interiors of modernist buildings.

We booked a table for dinner at El Bixto, the tiny place we enjoyed so much two nights ago, then went to pick up our laundry. It turned out the lavanderia was a very short walk from our hotel. D'oh! After dinner, perhaps we'll try again to see La Sagrada at night.

Tomorrow morning we pick up the rental car and head south to Granada. Adios, Barcelona.

PS, something I keep forgetting to say: would it kill the Red Sox to win a game while we're gone??? FFS.

Photos of Mercat St Josep are here.

Photos of La Palau de la Musica are here.

Photos of La Palau Guell are here.

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